‘Ugly’ Species losing Conservation Funds to ‘Celebrity’ Species : The World We Share

There are nearly 20,000 animal and plant species in the world that are threatened and need all the help they can get to survive on the planet, but according to a new report, only 80 odd ‘celebrity species’ hog the limelight with little funding or conservation efforts for the others equally doomed.

The report by Professor Hugh Possingham,calls species like the pandas, rhinos and the tiger as the ‘celebrity species’ getting all the media and public attention and therefore also receiving majority of the funds needed to save them.

The professor adds that this is taking resources away from other more urgent cases.

“Around 80 mammal species are used by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to raise funds for conservation,” says Professor Possingham of the National Environmental Research Program’s (NERP) Environmental Decisions Hub and The University of Queensland (UQ).

“These flagship species, such as panda bears, tigers, lions and rhinos, are charismatic and have high marketing appeal, leading to the success of sponsorship programs.”

The professor adds that the two major factors that make some species more appealing than others in public eye are the looks and their location. For instance, a panda bear or rain forest monkey has a certain cute factor which compels humans making them instantly fund for their protection as compared to any other rare species like a fungus or a plant with a name like Mollinedia glaba (Sprengel) Perkins Monimiaceae.

He also says that people will be more willing to donate to save an endangered species that is closer to their home.

“So if you’re an obscure animal or plant in a remote place, you have next to no hope of getting conservation resources,” said Prof. Possingham.

He believes that the complete conservation strategy adapted by many conservation organisations today is deeply flawed. This is because they are concentrating only on the attractive species or one that is within a certain range, forgetting the not so attractive or far away species that are threatened.

Ivory Billed Woodpecker, Lemur Leaf Frog, Chinese Giant Salamander, The Ma’oma’o

Prof. Possingham says if a more systematic approach was adopted many species could be saved simultaneously.

“Habitat loss affects over 2,000 mammal species. It is the greatest threat to biodiversity globally. As people identify more with a species than with a habitat, we can still choose some iconic animals or plants to ‘represent’ the area,” said the professor in the report.

“Flagship animals are generally large and have forward-facing eyes, and researchers suggest that there’s another 180 threatened mammal species that have similar traits, and may have equal appeal to donors.”

The report has been published in Decision Point named ‘Clash of the Icons’